And on to Anchorage

June 7: No time trials today. This is the last day of the Trans-American Challenge. Tonight we have a final banquet and winners will be announced. We won’t win anything except the satisfaction of driving from NY to Alaska, making lots of new friends and seeing parts of North American we have never seen. With our two day detour to North Carolina and one day out to have the oil leak repaired in Montana (Ed’s not at all sure this was necessary, but at the time, we had little option) we couldn’t make up for all our penalties even if we had continued to run the time trials- which we didn’t. We weren’t willing to subject ourselves and Stewball to the fast speeds on gravel roads this rally requires. Some of the participants loved it and equally loved putting their cars back together in the afternoon and evening. We will miss this eclectic group from all over the world.

Creative hat competition-final banquet

Before I describe this last day to Anchorage, I must go back and describe the day from Dawson City to Fairbanks. This was certainly one of our most interesting days.

Dawson free ferry

First we all had to be ferried across the Yukon river on the north side of Dawson. This is the only way to cross, there is no bridge and we had to queue with all the locals. Then we crossed the most northern border into Alaska at Poker Creek (which is only open from the end of May to mid-October) and drove the gravel Top of the World “highway” , which is named such because it winds up and down the ridge of the mountains and passes through the colorful three-building town of Chicken. (I have no idea where the few residence live!)

Chicken, Alaska

Once a gold mining town, this is a stop that defies description so a couple of photos is all you’ll get. Use your imagination, but I will tell you they have the best homemade pies and sticky buns you will ever taste.

No caption necessary

You already know how we spent our day off in Fairbanks-driving another 400 miles to the Arctic Circle.

This last day took us past Mt. McKinley. At 20,000 feet, this is the highest mountain in North America. Our lunch stop was supposed to be a great viewing area, unfortunately, clouds covered the top so our view wasn’t spectacular but the entire run was again set against snow-covered mountains nearly all the way to Anchorage.

Top of the World (two lane gravel) Highway

On a first drive in, Anchorage appears very ordinary. The city is flat, laid out in a grid and the architecture is plain. What makes the city impressive is the location. Mountains on three sides and the ocean on the fourth.

Mountains around our hotel in Anchorage

When the sun shines, everything sparkles and the outdoors beacons. I’ve concluded, either you love Alaska, or you hate it. It certainly stands apart from the lower 48. This time of year, it is never completely dark, but I can’t imagine the long months of cold, snow and never completely light.

Initially we planned to drive back to Chapel Hill, another 4,400 miles, but several days back, we changed our plan when we realized It would mean covering at least 400 miles a day to get back  with a day to spare before our flight to Paris. Even with highway driving, we had miles of mountain roads so we decided to ship Stewball back and fly from Anchorage. 

Our flight was to leave Anchorage on June 12 but we quickly realized that we didn’t want to stay after the rally was over. When it’s over, it’s over. We changed our flight-at some cost-and drove Stewball to Alaska Auto Transport who will put him in a container, then on a ship to Seattle, then overland by truck with National Auto. We will not see him until we are back from Paris at the end of July. He has done well on this trip, putting up with rough roads, bad weather and approximately 10,000 miles of driving day after day. He performed much better, albeit slower, than many of the more expensive, powerful cars. We hope he has a quiet, restful trip back.

More from home,

Jan, Ed and Stewball

P.S. We hope everyone who bought The Long Road to Paris will enjoy it on their long flights back to Europe and beyond.

About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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